Storytelling is a huge and integral part of being human – we learn desirable behaviors from the seemingly simple fables and fairytales of our youths, without even realizing all the layers of their allegories until we become older. As we age, stories serve as diversions, experimentations, solace, and learning tools still. One of the things that has always fascinated me is the question of whether it is our stories that shape society, or the other way around.
Valentine’s Day, a day now given over to the enactment of romantic gestures, is always an interesting time to think about this, because the whole notion of romance is so deeply rooted in fiction. The quintessential ideal of romantic gestures, of the very concept of ‘proving’ your worthiness of the affections of another, is rooted in chivalric romance. When we see it portrayed in popular culture, there’s an inherent element of egocentrism in the romantic tale – romance, and romantic gestures, are about the pursuit of another, without real consideration paid to that person’s opinion. The structure of the story is such that a character strives against challenges, shows their worth of her, and ultimately, wins the affections of another.
But is another person something to be won? Most of the relationships we see portrayed in romantic works are deeply unhealthy and troubling (probably because of romance’s original conception and iteration in the ideals of courtly love, and the rather dark ideals that lurk beneath the surface of that topic), and would be unlikely to last long term. This is precisely because the story is about the pursuit/conquest/winning of another person, rather than about actually having a healthy relationship with that person.
It takes time, effort, and attention on both sides to maintain any relationship, and while every relationship is unique, the best relationships are those where each person in it accepts the other as who they are now; not a person to be changed to meet your own idealized conception of them, or a prize to be won, but a person you actually enjoy spending time with as they are.
Take a moment this Valentine’s Day season to celebrate your relationships, instead of romance. Don’t make it about winning someone over – make it about appreciating the work and effort you and others put into keeping your various types of relationships alive and vibrant. Here’s a look at some of the library staff’s favorite pop culture presentations of healthy and reaffirming relationship models:
The Addams Family Movie (Film, 1991): Gomez and Morticia
Firefly (TV Series, 2002) & Serenity (Film, 2005): Wash and Zoe
LORE Olympus by Rachel Smythe (Webcomic, Ongoing – Volume 1 in print): Hades and Persephone
Good Omens (TV Series, 2019): Crowley and Aziraphale
Grey’s Anatomy (TV Series, Ongoing): Meredith and Christina
Scrubs (TV Series, 2010): J.D. and Turk
Avengers Endgame (Film, 2019): Black Widow and Hawkeye
Toy Story (Flim, 1995): Buzz and Woody
Top requested books
“The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles
2. “Wish You Were Here” by Jodi Picoult
3. “One Step Too Far” by Lisa Gardner
4. “The Maid” by Nita Prose
5. “Apples Never Fall” by Liane Moriarty
6. “The Judge’s List” by John Grisham
7. “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr
8. “The Paris Apartment” by Lucy Foley
9. “The Recovery Agent” by Janet Evanovich
10. “The School for Good Mothers” by Jessamine Chan
Top requested DVDs
1. “House of Gucci”
3. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”
5. “Marvel’s Eternals”
6. “No Time to Die”
7. “All Creatures Great and Small: Season 2”
8. “King Richard”
9. “Clifford the Big Red Dog”
10. “The Beatles: Get Back”
TUESDAY –– 1-4 pm, Community Resource Advocate – Our volunteer Community Resource Advocate is available to help connect you with local services/resources. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org; 2-3:30 pm, Virtual Tech Social – We meet on Zoom every Tuesday to address your tech questions. Preregistration is required; 5:30-7:30 pm, Knit and Crochet Club – The Knit and Crochet Group is meeting on Zoom. Please email email@example.com for meeting details.
WEDNESDAY –– 2-3 pm, Virtual Film Club – We will discuss three movies we selected last month and choose three to watch for our March meeting; 6-7 pm, Virtual Cookbook Club: Dine and Discuss – We’ll be preparing and (virtually) sharing recipes from “Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes” by Sam Sifton. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
THURSDAY –– 6-7 pm, Health and Wellness Book Discussion – Join us on Zoom for our newest book club! This month, we’re discussing “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” by Ethan Kloss. Email email@example.com for meeting details.
SATURDAY –– 10:30-11:30 am, Zumba in the Park and Library – Try out Zumba for a fun workout! Classes are FREE and will be held on the grassy area near the gazebo (weather permitting) or in the 3rd floor Terrace Room (in undesirable weather).
Tim Hayes is the technology and innovation coordinator at Westerly Library and Wilcox Park.